Amazon’s A9 algorithm SEO guide (Part 2): External optimization and product management

If you’ve been reading our blog, last week we covered the first part of our Amazon optimization guide. It was about optimizing from within Amazon and improving your odds internally. Today we will go over the things you can do to drive traffic to your products from external sources, and thereby influencing your Amazon product ranks positively!

Amazon doesn’t operate in a vacuum (yet). It has a symbiotic relationship with Google and the various social networks, as well as your own website if you link to your Amazon products. A customer’s desire to leave reviews is also part of this game.

Top selling Amazon products are frequently featured on Google’s 1st page, sometimes even above their original source brand website, while social networks constantly drive traffic to Amazon via targeted paid ads and organic shares.

As we learned last week, every positive influence on your product will improve its odds at being ranked highly by Amazon’s A9 algo. Remember the trio of main ranking drivers that determine “purchasing likelihood”? They are CTR through their SERP, Conversion Rates from your product page, and finally Sales.

Optimizing external traffic will improve TWO of these parameters:

  • Conversion rates – People will get to your product page, bypassing Amazon’s SERP, in case your product is still not rated highly enough for people to find it in the first 3 pages. And if you have a solid and well written sales funnel copy aimed at conversions, the magic will happen.
  • Sales – Conversions mean sales, and sales drive your product to the top for certain keywords. Run a targeted ad campaign on Facebook for your Amazon pages and get your product to sell well. Once A9 detects sales, it will rank it higher and higher, and before you know it, you have incoming traffic all over the place!

So, let’s get to the juice:

 

Review management

 

This factor is both internal and external in its nature, which is why we decided to place it in part 2.

Customer reviews are one of, if not THE MOST important things to be aware of, and in most cases, they have more power than well written copy! They can also influence all three A9 ranking factors – CTR, CR and sales.

Reviews dominate the eCommerce web. According to Spiegel Research Center, 95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase. And the likelihood of a purchase increases by an incredible 270% for a product that has5 reviews versus a product with no reviews.

Consider this scenario:

You’re not great at copywriting, but somehow by other means your product becomes viral and popular, leading people to leave positive reviews on your product. If I see a 4.5 score from many users, this might drive me to buy, even if your copy is just a dry written piece with only technical details about your product (in some cases this is the preferred copy to have. Such as medicinal, highly technical and professional products).

On the other hand, the copy might be the most well written piece of advertising text on Amazon, but reviews say that the product is rated a 2.7. Most people will likely not buy it.

Some people only look at reviews and the title with a few images to make sure they are browsing the right product. But the key term here is ‘some’. Don’t neglect your content just because you score well with customers. Reviews will get you some of the potential conversions, but good reviews + high quality content will get you the rest.

 

How to get reviews?

Your first step is to read Amazon’s customer product review policy.

Next you should know that roughly only 5% of purchases get reviewed.

As to the ‘how’: The simplest and most entry-level way of getting reviews is by asking for them politely and in a neutral way (remember – no incentives!).

Many do it by inserting a well-designed ‘thank you’ note in the product package, with a phrase like:

“Liked our space-foam pillow? Leave us your opinion on Amazon! Got a concern or question? We’re here to help you: contact details.”

You can also ask for a review with a follow-up email. Or if you are a registered brand, you can try Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program, which will help you gain those first 5 reviews for a fee.

 

Embrace the negative

The fresh on the block seller might be alarmed when the 1st negative review hits. The seasoned seller knows this is actually a golden opportunity to increase their branding power!

For starters it will make your product look ‘real’. Too perfect a score might have an opposite and detrimental effect. You know that feeling, when something seems just “too perfect”, it immediately smells fishy.

Having a slightly flawed review record is actually better than having nothing but straight 5’s. Spiegel found that the ideal rating range for virtually all products is 4.0-4.7. The occasional negative review is the bitter spice that can complement the flavor of a dish.

You can also respond to the negative review and show that you are a compliant-friendly brand that is willing to take responsibility.

 

Don’t be tempted to fakery!

You might come across various “review services” that offer to review your products for a fee. These services usually rely on bots or review farms in poor countries. Fake reviews are a huge no-no and violates Amazon’s TOS. Amazon is getting better and better at busting fake reviews, and there are also external apps that can analyze reviews and determine if they are real or fake, such as Fakespot, and ReviewMeta.

 

Amazon’s customer Q&A

Stay on top of your customer service game and answer questions left by customers. This is one of the best ways to engage with your customers and show that you are a responsive seller. Personally, when I see the seller answering questions themselves, my trust in that seller increases.

Handling reviews is a huge topic, and there are many more things to learn. We will publish our Amazon review guide soon, but until then, here is our series of posts that cover the topic of customer reviews for all platforms.

 

Amazon’s PPC

Amazon’s advertising system relies on keyword relevance. Much like their regular search algorithm, products will appear for a certain search term, only if that keyword is featured somewhere in the relevant fields which A9 crawls. So, optimizing your keyword game is also key for paid ads on Amazon to be successful.

Amazon advertises with sponsored products which look like organic search results. PPC products are featured all over their main SERP in various forms. The ads can show up on top of the page (above the organic search results), middle and bottom. Sponsored products also appear inside product pages

Next, we need to consider ROI here. Amazon ads rely on a bidding system, which means the CPC can either be very cheap or very expensive, depending on how competitive your niche is and how high was the winning bid. If you keep a profitable margin and don’t lose money, ads can be a nice ‘shortcut’ at boosting new products higher in the SERP.

Remember the snowball effect that can catapult products to the top? PPC can be an amazing way to fuel that effect and drive newer products and brands to the top of their SERP.

Unlike Google AdWords, PPC on Amazon can help organic ranks noticeably. As far as Amazon is concerned, a sale following a paid click is equal to a sale that happens organically. This means a sale is a sale. Sell more, get ranked higher, even if it is done by PPC. It’s that straightforward.

Amazon’s PPC game, is like an easier more targeted version of their regular ‘organic content’ game. It is influenced by the same things but being featured in a paid ad will be much easier than the 1st page.

Amazon provides a range of metrics which you can analyze and adjust your strategy, such as impressions, clicks, conversions, CTR, CR and more.

The most basic cases:

  • If the CTR is low (ad is being viewed but no clicked), this means the image, title and price can be adjusted. It can also happen because of poor reviews since they are displayed in the ad. Another case is maybe certain keywords are irrelevant for you to target. Amazon has an exclusion function in their PPC system, which means you can choose to specifically exclude certain keywords form being targeted for your ads.
  • If the CR is low (people are visiting the product page but no converting), this means the inner content is not strong enough.

Amazon’s PPC campaigns can end up costing you more money than they are worth if you have a poorly optimized product page. If you are actively paying to have people see your product page, you better make sure that the content is well written and optimized for conversions. That way you can directly use Amazon’s ads to improve your organic ranks instead of just siphoning your bank account.

 

Dynamic price game

Having a cheap market-breaking price isn’t necessarily ideal as far as having your products rank higher. You need to look at this dynamically and adjust your prices with trial and error. Don’t be afraid to A/B test different prices for different products.

 

Shipping and inventory management

Effective fast shipping and maintaining a steady stock and supply are some of the key elements of the overall customer experience. You can have the most awesome product in your niche, great content, and an epic sales funnel, but if there is one thing that can sprout negative reviews, it’s shipping and handling issues.

Here are some of the ingredients of invoking customer dissatisfaction: Slow shipping, out of stock products, poor quality handling which leads to packages being damaged and even the product itself, or simply having low quality packaging that doesn’t protect the product effectively (a pretty package isn’t enough!).

Running out of stock occasionally is normal and sometimes these things are not even in your control. But having shortages for extended periods of time will eventually get your products to drop in rankings. If that happens it’s not the end of the world – and with some PPC juice, they can be regained.

Amazon has made fast shipment an industry standard. And as the future is leading towards complete automation, eventually sellers might not have a choice but to use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) if they want a fighting chance.

With FBA your products are eligible for Prime shipping. You don’t have to rely on FBA, but Amazon has made it a very strong brand with a huge user base of more than 100 million Prime members that just keeps growing. Prime members enjoy free two-day delivery, and access to a whole bunch of other Amazon features such as additional discounts, and of course their streaming services.

These 100+ million members will likely opt for the prime shipping versus other options. Some Prime members don’t even bother checking products that don’t have the Prime stamp, which is visibly featured on every search result that uses it. Amazon even has the option to filter products by Prime shipping availability.

Of course, this is just part of their strategy to become the only shipping provider on their platform. In a way this is unfair, since this is a way to indirectly demote sellers that are not ‘all in’ on what Amazon has to offer.

 

External traffic

External traffic is anything that leads to Amazon from other websites or apps. If you have a well optimized product page with a good review score, external traffic will lead to more conversions and sales, thus driving your Amazon rankings up.

This is a huge topic and can be broken down into several separate guides. But here’s the quick breakdown of some common external traffic sources:

 

  • Your company’s website – Unless you sell from your own website, you will probably have links to your products on Amazon. Google still enjoys billions of eCommerce related searches, but the downsides here is that these searches will have a lower purchasing intent than searching directly on Amazon. Also, ranking high on Google is no easy feat since SEO can be difficult and time consuming. But you would probably want your brand ranked highly on Google for at least some keywords in your niche.
  • Google AdWords – Google still enjoys more visits than Amazon, so having your ads on Google means being visible to additional potential buyers, for relevant keywords.
  • Facebook and Instagram – Both platforms are inter-linked and you can have great organic exposure if you create real engaging content that gets organic shares. Very often videos that showcase a solution with a cool product get an insane amount of engagement and shares, just for their pure entertaining value (I found myself buying a product impulsively on more than one occasion because of a well-crafted video on FB). Facebook also has a highly advanced ad targeting platform which also targets Instagram users. The downside is that it’s very expensive and like AdWords has low purchasing intent compared to Amazon. But if used correctly, it can be very effective.
  • YouTube – Gets more visitors than Amazon and Facebook, and an entertaining commercial video can get millions of views. Countless review videos feature Amazon affiliate links in the description. And, of course, you can use YouTube’s PPC system and place ads on videos.

Summary

So other than having a well optimized product page, you will have to use at least one of the methods and systems discussed here, to get the ball rolling to get that sweet ranking snowball effect. You don’t even have to excel at all of these. Theoretically mastering just one or two can already provide you with initial traffic to generate enough sales and push your Amazon ranks up to the top. A good combo to try is Amazon PPC + AdWords.

And, of course, besides driving traffic by various means, you also need to manage reviews, stock, and shipping and handling. Having a steady stream of income on Amazon is making sure all parts of the sales mechanism work. Neglecting one will likely have a detrimental effect on the whole system and obstruct the final goal, which is making a sale.

 

Part 1:

Amazon’s A9 algorithm SEO guide (Part 1): Internal optimization 

 

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